Naiveté … Is that the Problem?

While enjoying a glass of wine with friends tonight, I endured some rather sorry talk about politics and the economy.  One man in particular raised much concern.  Admired by his friends, he is a “self-made” man and he isn’t afraid to tell you so.

One of his admirers asked what he thought of Minnesota’s looming shutdown.  His answer was pathetic.

“Government has done nothing for me,” he answered, “so I don’t care much about politics.”

He also explained how he came from a family of Democrats.  He said his family learned to expect handouts and grew lazy.  I don’t know his family so perhaps he is telling the truth.  Perhaps he comes from a family of freeloaders, but it is a mistake to generalize from one experience and freeloading isn’t limited to Democrats alone.  But that isn’t really what I care about.  It is demonizing government that troubles me because in this case it seems to arise from naivete.

This man bragged about escaping his Democratic roots and claims he did it all on his own.  But if his parents were such freeloaders, does he think he would have had the opportunities he obviously made the most of without the benefit of some effort preceding him?

What about his health, education, and security?  Would he have done so well — especially with freeloading parents — had better people neglected to support a strong social infrastructure?  Today he has a successful business.  If he had no government regulating and securing commerce, would he be able to enforce his contracts and protect his investments?  What about the benefits of the streets and parks he enjoys…or the clean water and air?

Ok…this list of benefits becomes tiresome to review and it goes on and on.  We all know the facts.  But there are many people who do not.  They don’t even give credit for the most obvious benefits that strong public investment gives us.  And this sort of naiveté is hurting our country.

We need a more sophisticated citizenship than this.  Sadly, however, the GOP thrives under this sort of ignorance.  If we had less ignorance, perhaps the Republican Party would not be the problem,  but it might be part of the solution.  Right now being naive is the only genuine quality you might be able to attribute to conservatives.  Until that changes, Republicans will not add much to public discourse and political solutions.

Alas, we are stuck in a world of haves and have nots. Increasingly the divide between intellectual haves and have nots are breaking our society.  Conservatives like to claim an allegiance with our nation’s founding fathers.  Perhaps they can learn to identify with our founders’ respect for civil responsibility.

Perhaps not.

Something has to change.  It is time to care about politics.


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